Wayne Rooney roared onto the scene as a player but is taking a more patient approach to coaching as the Manchester United and England great strives to become a top manager.
Nobody could forget his stunning breakthrough as a teenager with Everton and then the national team, leading to his big-money move to Old Trafford in 2004.
Rooney was a force of nature that won trophies aplenty as records fell with United before winding down his career with spells at Everton, DC United and Derby.
The forward hung up his boots in January 2021 to take on the full-time managerial role at County, steering them through tough times during a rollercoaster start to his coaching career.
The 37-year-old decided to return to the USA and has overseen a marked improvement since taking over then Major League Soccer strugglers DC United last July as he builds his coaching pedigree.
“It’s been a great experience,” Rooney told the PA news agency. “Obviously I had the challenge at Derby County, which was a difficult one to say the least.
“But coming out here has just really been about gaining experience and for me to try and develop as a coach.
“I know I am not where I want to be as a finished article, but these next few years are really important in terms of me getting to grips and getting the best out of myself and eventually out of the players. But it is something I really enjoy.”
Rooney seems to be approaching his coaching career with a calm, patient mindset – something that might surprise those that watched this aggressive whirlwind of a forward thunder around the pitch.
“I think patience is key and understanding that you are going to lose games, you’re not going to win every game and staying calm in them situations,” he said ahead of managing the MLS All-Stars against Arsenal at Audi Field.
“I think that’s something that’s really a strength of mine is understanding that.
“I’ve picked two difficult jobs to take, to be fair, but I really believe that they’ll help me in the future.
“When DC came in I felt it was a great opportunity to come out and keep developing.
“A difficult job in terms of where the club was at, so I had to try to improve the club first of all and get them up the table.
“And really just seeing different challenges, different things – obviously languages, culture, religion – and understanding all them different scenarios which could happen if you manage at the top level, which you will have to deal with.”
Rooney’s knowledge and experiences have clearly made him an empathetic, considered coach, who is focused on developing himself as well as his players at DC United.
“I think it’s a place where I’m coming to work and to learn and develop,” he said.
“Of course, after games you can get frustrated and you are always thinking of how the game has gone but I think it’s the right place now, in this moment in time, for me to develop.”
With his family back in the UK, Rooney says he lives a “quite boring” existence Stateside around a 45-minute drive from downtown Washington DC.
He stays with his fellow coaches and the relaxed environment is allowing the football obsessive to try new things.
“If you would have asked me a year ago if I would play with a back five I would have said no,” Rooney said.
“Then I’ve gone to a back five quite a few times this season because of probably the quality of the players and it suited the squad more with the players I had.
“So, there are small things like that which it has allowed me to learn and develop tactically with different formations.
“It’s a great experience for me to come here and work and I think it will really help me moving forward.”
Rooney has never shied away from his ambitions to one day manage at the top level, previously saying he would “love” to coach Manchester United or boyhood club Everton.
But right now it is DC United that holds his full focus in a competition that feels like it is about to take a giant leap forward.
The work starts now pic.twitter.com/oekDgfqBPy
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 18, 2023
Lionel Messi’s stunning move to Inter Miami certainly has the potential to take football in North America to new heights, while Rooney believes MLS’ true quality has long been underestimated.
“I think it’s surprised a lot of people,” he said. “Still now I get agents phoning me up and saying there’s a striker in League Two and he’s ready now to come to the MLS.
“I’m like: ‘He’s nowhere near good enough to come and play in the MLS!’
“I think that’s a lack of understanding of the league maybe and there’s maybe a little bit of disrespect towards the league from that point of view.
“There are some really quality players in this league who can play at a high level.
“There’s different challenges, there’s technically some great players in this league, athletically there’s some really fit players in the league.
“It’s a league which I feel is still improving and can get better, but I think it’s really got to a very good level.”